19

As a moderator our actions are always under some sort of scrutiny, as a result, users tend to try to track down our personal contact details to request clarification or to discuss our actions.

How should a moderator handle this type of offsite contact?

11

I put the following message in my user profile on Stack Overflow:

Questions about moderator actions on Stack Overflow should still be posted on Meta Stack Overflow.

This is right in the same paragraph as my contact information, so if a user contacts me off-site they really can't say they didn't see the message. This has really cut down on the number of times that I get Stack Overflow moderation related questions on Twitter or on my personal blog. Some users do still occasionally contact me through those channels though, and I just gently remind them where those kinds of communications belong.

7

From a different perspective, I don't make it difficult for users to find some contact information. My Stack Exchange profile, for example, contains my website (with links to my email address and social media, with various levels of privacy control), my Stack Overflow Careers profile, and my LinkedIn profile. In general (with the exception of some throwaway accounts for more controversial posts), much of my Internet contributions are linked with my real identity and it's trivial to find my contact information on sites that I participate in, as a user or a moderator.

Occasionally, users do try to contact me via email regarding Stack Exchange (a question about the site, a comment on my moderation, or a complaint of some kind). Unless it's a question or comment on a post that I've made (a correct, an update, or some other kind of comment), I direct them toward the appropriate parts of the site (Meta, the chat room, the help center, and the contact the SE team form). If they attempt to carry on a conversation, I simply ignore it - concerns about how the site is run can and should be addressed on the site in question.

I think that the same guidance generally applies. If you want to comment on my contributions as a user, feel free to contact me through the means that I've made available. However, if you're looking for some kind of support, please keep it on the site.

7

Off site communication should be actively discouraged for a couple of reasons:

  1. You don't want your moderator activities spilling over into other areas of your online live - unless you're in control. If your moderators are constantly being bothered on Facebook, Twitter or even by e-mail about their actions then they'll be less inclined to act and may even quit.
  2. Keeping all communications on site keeps an audit trail of who said what and when available to everyone who has admin rights. This means that there can be no disputes about what was said (or not said) and every action can be reviewed.

This second reason is probably more important as it benefits the users as much as it benefits the moderators. If you can communicate this to your users then they'll see the benefits as well and (hopefully) not try to contact you off site.

So you should politely, but firmly refuse such contacts.

3

I had this very situation arise on the Pets site... Tricky.

Ultimately, the approach I took was it was okay to email me for general chatter, they were interesting to chat with, but that any and all site-related discussions were "off topic" for email. Period.

For the most part they stuck by that, only had once to remind them, but they otherwise just had more general discussion (usually animal related). However, I though really long and hard about being okay with this and it was only after more general exchanges in the chat system that I ended up agreeing.

Long story short... it's case by case. I would tend to go no unless a relationship establishes outside of that first.

1
  • 1
    +1 all site-related discussions were "off topic" for email. I like that!
    – Malachi
    Aug 6 '14 at 13:31
0

As the other answers asserted, community members should be directed to avoid offsite communications relating to community moderation because of the reasons mentioned in this answer; especially, this is true for communities having transparency policy, which is discussed in this answer

It is worth recommending that communities should have reliable and responsive contact ways between community members and community managers (administrators & moderators) in order to reduce offsite contacts.

However, there is an exception for communities lacking transparency. If community members see some privilege abuse from other members, they can report it to community moderators; if community members see some privilege abuse from moderators, they can report it to community administrators. But, how about if some privilege abuse from some administrators, especially those who are responsible for dealing with help requests from community members, occurs?

There should not be a deadlock in such a situation. So, the only exception is: If no reasonable progress happens after reporting some abuse to community managers via regular contact ways defined within a community (lacking transparency), it may be good idea to contact community administrators who are responsible for monitoring relevant community managers' work.

Thus, if you, as a moderator (can also be an administrator), face a nonexceptional offsite contact (concerning some moderation issue), you should ignore it; however, if an offsite contact is an instance of the exception mentioned above, then it is recommended to consider it in case it is worth examining it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.